Last January I looked at The 2012 Dodger Catchers, and I mentioned my adoration for the masked hero behind the plate. The catcher has the most difficult position to play on the diamond, and a world championship team is often anchored by a strong backstop. This season St. Louis has Yadier Molina, and San Francisco has Buster Posey. Both of which are not only strong defensive catchers but also have lead their team offensively. In fact, both will be considered for the M.V.P. award for 2012. While the catcher’s first job is to handle the pitching staff and defend the strike zone and home plate, it is extra special when a team has a catcher who can hit as well. As Dodger fans, we will always think to the great Mike Piazza as the ultimate hitting catcher. For me, Mike Scioscia’s defense was the best when it came to blocking home plate.
After suffering through the likes of Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro in 2011, the Dodger catching outlook looked pretty bleak. In fact, there was
concern that the Dodger catching could be one of the worst in the league in 2012. I didn’t think it would be that dire, and Scott and I had been clamoring for the Dodgers to allow A.J. Ellis to get a shot throughout 2011. After Big Rod signed with Pittsburgh (thankfully), the Dodgers had no choice but to finally give A.J. the opportunity to be the Dodgers’ starting catcher in 2012. They also signed Matt Treanor, a 8-year veteran at the time, to a 1-year deal last offseason to be the backup backstop. While Matt Treanor did not do much more than we all anticipated from the defensively solid yet light hitting catcher, A.J. Ellis rose to the occasion to become the heart of the 2012 Dodgers and solidify his place as a Major League catcher. What a difference a year makes.
Dodger catchers were above league average in almost every defensive catching category. They were above the league average of 11 with just 9 combined errors on the season, and they ranked fourth in the league in assists with 108. The Dodger catchers also were at the top of the leader board (four-way tie in fourth) with 43 caught base stealers. They were fifth in overall caught stealing percentage with 32%. The previous year, Dodger catchers ranked below the league average in caught stealing percentage at 26%. The Dodger catchers actually led the league (tied for first with St. Louis) with 15 double plays turned. That’s 5 more DPs turned than in 2011. Remember, the Dodgers also hired Steve Yeager as a catching coach this year, so his expertise also helped.
.267/.373/.414 13 HR, 52 RBIs, 107 SO, 65 BB, 133 Games, 423 At Bats
6 Errors, 14 PB, 36 CS, 33% CS
The 31-year old catcher was one of the only starting players for the Dodgers who didn’t land on the disability list this season. That’s pretty remarkable considering he started in more games than he had ever done before in his career (133). Even
with a knee injury which was unknown to Dodger fans during the final stretch of the season, A.J. caught almost every day. His dedication, plate discipline, and unexpected power (13 homeruns) created a folkloric storyline that spurred a niche fan following and several complimentary websites in his honor. The only criticism I had of A.J.’s defense was his apprehension when it came to blocking home plate and the misjudgment of a couple of throws to home from the outfield. The best part about his success this season wasn’t the statistics, it was the fact that A.J. is a genuinely nice guy who finally made it after nine seasons in the minor league system. When I personally met A.J. this year at a autograph signing, he was genuinely kind to his fans. He spent a few minutes talking to my five-year old daughter, and that special moment she had personally interacting with a Major League baseball player will be something she will never forget. I thank you for that, A.J.
.175/.281/.282 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 29 SO, 14 BB, 36 Games, 103 At Bats
3 Errors, 0 PB, 6 CS, 25 % CS
Other than having a cool walk-up song (The A-Team theme song) and being there to give A.J. Ellis a day off, Matt Treanor was pretty useless. He only appeared in 36 games, but his batting average was the lowest of his career. Even his defensive numbers, which were supposed to be his strength, were not all that impressive. Back in 2006 he did have an incredible 47% CS, but this season was just 25%. The Dodgers do have a 2013 team option for $950,000 on Treanor, or they could buyout his option for $150,000.
.333/.500/.333 2 SO, 1 BB, 3 Games, 3 At Bats
Tim Federowicz a.k.a. FedEx only had three at bats this year, so his stats are far too small to analyze at any sort of level. What is encouraging is the work he put in this season at AAA-Albuquerque where he hit .371 with 11 HR and 76 RBIs in 115 games. He also had an impressive 39% CS, but did make 12 errors. FedEx could very well be the Dodger catcher of the future, but the question is how far into the future?
With the emergence of A.J. Ellis’s amazing OBP and refreshing pop of power, there’s no reason to doubt that he will be back next year as the Dodgers’ starting catcher on Opening Day. He is currently recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his knee, but he should be ready for Spring Training. The Dodgers will have to decide if they want to pick up Treanor’s option for 2013 and let FedEx develop a bit more and play every day in AAA. While Treanor adds the veteran grittiness that Ned Colletti loves, I say give FedEx the job to back up A.J. and add some more potential power to the weak bench.
Season Grade- Catching- A